college, Essay, Halloween

NO PICTURES

As I was on a (what would turn out to be over four hours in the rain and two iterations of Taylor Swift’s 1989) drive back from my Boston Halloweekend, I realized – mid-eating a Chicken McNugget – that I hadn’t gotten a picture for Instagram the entire weekend. “Fuck!” I said, mouth muffled by “meat.”

And over the next few hours, as I caught up on all the social media I had missed – all the Halloween Instagrams of people in their various costumes, all the posed Snap stories and (let’s be realistic) Instagram stories – I felt more and more annoyed. I had let a prime social media weekend slip through my fingers like sand, or silk, or (most realistically) me dribbling a basketball.

It was the second time I was in Boston in October, and I had – on both occasions – made a plan to take a cute Instagram with my friends and completely forgotten. It’s a sober truth, I’ve realized, that when you’re a freelance writer-journalist (slash full-time inspiration and model), your chances for taking cutely candid Instagrams are severely limited. Either I’m working, writing, sleeping, eating, watching Netflix or doing some combination of the aforementioned. And unless my followers want endless versions of my dog with the exact same photo filtering (I do an opaque shadow, get used to it), there’s a limit to the content I’m naturally coming into contact with.

Getting an Instagram is more than an exercise in vanity. This might be dumb – do you know me? – but social media is as much a cultivation of personal branding as it is to remember moments. I want to work in media, and understanding various social media platforms, and being active on those platforms, is important to me. And in a post-grad world where I’m a very small fish in…the ocean? A galaxy? It helps me feel connected to the larger world. And yes, I use those photos for Tinder. Sue me.

Before I came up to Boston in the beginning of October, I texted my best friend. “We have to take a photo together.” She agreed (she loves photos of me). But with the time constraints of balancing family and friends, we forgot. I spent my hours with her, and my other friends, drinking at our favorite bar, hanging out at home, getting brunch. I drank up their presence like a sunflower; it had been so long since I had seen them in person. And I just missed them. And I didn’t want to miss any of them by separating myself through a screen.

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Essay, Life

“ONE—TWO—THREE!”

Neon-green teeth against deep, dark violet skin. A ceiling fan broken from too many hands flinging into the air. Too many bodies crammed into too little square footage, forcing the heat to climb upwards until your white shirt has turned filmy as it clings wetly to your skin.

We see the host, and I grab the drink out of his hand to take a sip of artificial margarita. We set up residence against one wall, some girl’s long strands of hair whipping against the small of my back as she dances with someone else.

Talking becomes a post-lingual experiment. The mouth forms words that will never reach someone else’s ears, instead swirling out and upward into the collective cacophony. You communicate by mouthing simple words, by pointing, by the arching of eyebrows.

That’s a college party. Sound so big it forces you into the corner, heat so high everyone loses water weight against their will, and a Babel tower of red Solo cups.

It’s the kind of thing that could only occur in college. Only occur when there’s an uneven distribution of wealth. Top-shelf liquors mixed with liters of lukewarm Sprite, the kind that our teachers brought in for class parties. J.Crew button-downs with beaten-down Converse splashed with various liquids. You bypass the club with their $10-covers and instead cram in with sixty of your Facebook friends-of-friends and sweat it out to Childish Gambino.

It’s the kind of thing that could only occur when you’re on the razor’s edge between childhood and adulthood.

Before, we stood in her bathroom, me balancing a water bottle of Patron and two shot glasses on the ceramic lid of the toilet tank. I poured the Patron into the glasses, alternately labeled in ridged letters “Don’t Mess with Texas” and “Malibu”. I took care to make sure they were level with each other before handing one off. In between her putting black eyeliner on, we licked the bony tops of our thumbs and dumped salt on the damp.

“One—two—three,” I said as we clicked the shots together.

Lick the salt. Suck down the Patron. Hold the two in your mouth for a second before gulping. We didn’t have limes so I grabbed a bottle of lemonade. The sickly-sweet-sour taste of the lemonade, from concentrate, cuts through the tequila as I made a hasty gulp before passing it on to her. We stagger the second round of shots so that we can have equal access to the chaser.

Lick. Suck. Gulp.

I perch behind her as she tries to balance out her eyeliner. I pull thick swathes of auburn hair into place. We preen, and something warms in the outline of my ribs.

Later it was a bottle of red wine that we passed back and forth. We had to clench our teeth to avoid consuming the coils of foil from the twist-top that had fallen to the bottom of the deep dark red. Afterward, we would have to comb our tongues free of the aluminum scraps.

We went to a birthday pre-game first, one we drastically overestimated the punctuality of its occupants. By the time we strolled in at 9:45, they were already platonically grinding to Top 40, and That One Girl was yelling at people to start requesting their Ubers.

“FIVE MINUTES PEOPLE, CALL YOUR UBERS,” she waded through the clusters of drunk people. “FIVE MINUTES.” This was not a Lyft crowd.

We had enough time to say hi to Birthday Girl & Co and mooch some Smirnoff Raspberry into thrown-together cocktails. But they were annoyingly punctual, and by 10 p.m. we were the last ones to swirl out of the apartment, shoving potato chips into our pockets for snacking on the sidewalk.

At the second party, the purple light burned through the window even as we were approaching from outside. Inside, sweat mixed with liquor mixed with burnt weed. Hawaiian shirts glowed hotly against dark violet skin. Synthetic leis lit up the undersides of chins and matched eerily with the neon whites of people’s eyes.

Inside, everyone is a stranger, even the people I know. The darkness coats everything, so that familiarity becomes a moot point until they’re in your face. I run into people from class, old half-forgotten acquaintances, and former besties. In a party, old frictions are limned over in the alcohol haze.

She and I stand by the bar counter, a square hole in the wall between the living room and the kitchen. Separated by a narrow line of strangers are friends from my collegiate nascence. Friends whom I knew when I hardly knew myself. That clogging nostalgia rises from my chest and coils behind my tongue. The sense is that identity is a series of rolling hills.

You climb one with some cluster of people, crest over the top and skid to the bottom. Then you begin again. And suddenly people begin to drop off. After one hill without them, they become a little blurred. After two and three, you have lost sight of them entirely. But they’re on their own hills, cresting and skidding endlessly over and over. Run up, hover, run down.

And eventually you realize that if you keep looking back, as the hummocks replicate, you’ll trip. So you force yourself to look forward, cresting with new people, ending at the bottom of the hill with new people.

Sucking the foil from my tongue, I lean down to say something to her and come face-to-face with a yelling landlord. Party’s over, he says. The purple light weakens as yellow-bulbed rooms are opened up, the crowd thins, but the music thumps on, as loud as before. It blankets over the scurrying people, grabbing coats, appearing from cracks in the walls and hidden spots like cockroaches.

As I wrestle our coats from the pile, she spills a cup of something over me, her and the floor. Margarita, probably, or Sprite. Something sticky and sweet that dots my jeans like rain.

As we leave the purple light party, our laughter trailing behind us at this long-ago failure of a night, we cut through back alleys to our familiar place. Two identical beers and nearly identical burgers—fries to split between two people.

Our hills have neatly aligned, I realize as we tuck into burgers, the kick of spicy secret sauce hitting the ridged roof of my mouth. Bite of burger, snap of fry, sip of beer. Sloppily sopping up that secret sauce, too drunk to care about appearing proper.

Balancing between childhood and adulthood is like that. It’s the razor’s edge, the series of hills. The ravenous eating of two dollar burgers after wine and tequila and beer. Patron in plastic and curls of foil on tongues. Too many metaphors because I haven’t learned yet that one will do. It’s the here now and the not there yet.

We stand at the bottom of the hill and I reach my hand out towards hers. She clasps it, sweat against sweat. Chipped baby-blue nail polish.

“One—two—three.”

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college, Essay, Politics

ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: MY NIGHT WITH REPUBLICANS

Names have been changed, except the name of that nail polish. Originally submitted as a piece for my Columns & Editorials class.

Last night I went to my first College Republicans meeting. I’m working on a story about political engagement among college students post-election, and when researching political party groups on campus, I found out they were having a meeting that very night.

I don’t know what I thought I would be walking into, but it wasn’t what I assumed. Okay, I knew what I thought it would be—a Nazi circle-jerk, or an anti-Obama pile-on. I expected Make America Great Again hats and enough Vineyard Vines to clothe an entire village.

There was only one MAGA hat but, I assumed, they all had some in their closets. There were a lot more women than I expected, at least half but maybe more. Traitors to their gender, I thought. How can they side with someone who is so anti-women? And there were people of color. Stockholm Syndrome, I reasoned, or internalized xenophobia. The white, presumably straight, guy in a quarter-zip and Patriot’s baseball cap was soaked in so much privilege that anything he would say was bound to be offensive. But in what’s usually the case, per the principle of Occam’s Razor, the simplest answer is usually the truest. They weren’t brainwashed or spies or masochists. They were just Republicans.

The meeting began with typical housekeeping. In light of the new presidency, they hoped to up their meetings from once every three weeks to something more frequent, and then they bandied around ideas for speakers they could get for their semesterly big function. Bill O’Reilly, I learned, is a BU alum, and one girl thought he was worth reaching out to.

After, the conversation turned to discussion. The latest news: The inauguration, and who among the group had attended. The nomination for Supreme Court of Neil Gorsuch. They said it was a “Merrick Garland type of decision,” meaning a more centrist pick that both sides could agree on. The immigration ban, which a College Republicans executive board member, Rocky, said (a common response) was “executed very, very poorly.”

Marianne talked about the immigration ban, sharing that her boyfriend (a green card holder from a “non-white, non-Christian” country) was afraid that if he left America, he wouldn’t be let back in.

Getting visibly upset, she said, “No one should be afraid of that; that if he left for Engineering Without Borders to do work in Africa and came back on a connecting flight through Dubai…” She trailed off.

A lot of the conversation, the feelings of dealing with rabid liberals who operated purely on emotion and attacked without information, was uncomfortably familiar to me. The sense of defeat when having a conversation with someone on the far other side. Frustration with how polarized everything seems to be. Swap any of the names, and I could’ve easily been sitting in on a group of liberals talking about zealous Republicans.

“It’s hard being the elephant in the room, literally and figuratively,” said Robert, one of the club’s executive board members. That earned major laughs from the members, and even a surprised one from me. Who knew Republicans could have jokes? He was answering in response to Lydia, a Chicago native who was relieved to find a group of like-minded people in such a liberal city.

“So it’s nice to have, well I don’t wanna say the word “safe space” but…” said Robert, laughing again.

They were tired of being demonized, of being labeled as Nazis or homophobes or xenophobes or racists or misogynists, and the list goes on and on. To be fair, it’s a pretty long list. Tired of everything being labeled “the end of the world,” a sentiment, they pointed out, is always expressed by the opposing political side to the president. But the sense that I got from most of them was that their primary motivation for voting Trump was either loyalty to the Republican party or fiscal.

Robert told a story about his Republican parents and his upbringing in Michigan. His mother grew up in Detroit in the sixties and seventies, and was witness to the decline of the industrial community.

“When we heard “Make America Great Again,” that’s what we associated it with,” he said. Not the takeback of the country from diversity, but the bringing back of industrial jobs into areas that are starving without them.

When I asked the group if they felt a disconnect or conflict between being a millennial and being a Republican, their hands were raising before I even finished the question.

“I’m socially more liberal, but fiscally more conservative, so I identify myself as more of a moderate,” said Stacey. That sense, that as Republicans they were most caught up in fiscal matters, seemed to resonate amongst everybody. And when Stacey said the (I assumed) most-hated statement, “I voted for Hillary Clinton,” no one recoiled. No one threw anything at her. Her conflict, between Republican and millennial, was one with which they could all identify.

When people hear the name Republican, felt most of them, they assume white nationalists and xenophobes. But it’s “a wide tent,” said Max, and Republicans are much more diverse than people are willing to believe.

One of the last questions I posed to the group was “Is there something you wish you could tell the other side?”

“Ask questions,” said Rocky. Be able to have a conversation. Be open to having a conversation.

Stacey offered a story from her time interning for Governor Charlie Baker. “Many liberals are turning more moderate, to be able to work with a conservative government,” she said, “And that’s really good to see.”

“Thanks for being willing to listen,” said Louis, the communications chair, when I thanked them for their time.

At the end of the meeting, two girls gingerly approached me. “Um, can I ask you something?” one asked, a woman of color.

“Yeah!” I answered, trying to be friendly but predicting (even after all this) that it might be something rude or blunt or homophobic.

“I was staring at it all meeting; where is your nail polish from?”

I looked down at the minty blue color. “Isn’t it great? It’s called ‘Babe Blue.’ But I don’t know the brand. Sorry!”

She looked genuinely anguished, because it is such a cute color. “Oh, okay. Thanks!”

And when I got home and logged on to Twitter, I saw my liberal newsfeed through different eyes. How would the College Republicans see this? They would say probably that it’s catastrophizing everything. And they might be right.

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college, Things Happening RN

TWEENS TERRIFY ME: PLEASE TROYE AGAIN LATER

Written after posting a stupid fucking Instagram, but I’ve been posting a toxic amount of photos of myself lately, so I did a photo of my Starbucks. But it’s cool cuz it’s iced tea. And I did a Kanye West lyric as a caption because I’m trying that formula of “dumb photo + wholly unrelated rap lyric = tons of likes” because it’s worked for every insufferable fake-hipster I go to school with. Is that tea piping hot? Can’t be my tea, cuz mine is iced. BOOM.

On Saturday, I worked a concert. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say what it is, so I’ll just make up a name. It was a Schroye Tevan concert. You’ll never be able to decode that.

Aside from a handful of older gays (older=older than me=65+ because I’m 60; just kidding I’m 12), the audience was basically teenagers. Everyone was glittery and gay, even when they weren’t, and it was a balm to my sore heart after a rough week. It was, however, trying to be in the same room as 6,000 hormonal tweenagers because they have ABSOLUTELY no chill. Like, I have very little chill, but these kids need to be frozen Walt Disney-style. They need major chill.

After the opener—Schua Dipa, who was awesome—I was doing rotating slowly in a circle to keep from being too bored and these two teenaged girls came down from their seats to where I was standing.

“You seem like you’re have so much fun, so we had to join,” they said/squealed.

I did my platonic smile, “Oh yeah, I’m having a blast.”

They were from upstate New York—five hours away from where I live/civilization—and were seniors in high school. Either they thought I was really fucking cool—reminder, I’m a 21-year-old working a Schroye Tevan concert on a Saturday night—or they were desperate, but they did that thing that all teenagers do when they’re talking to anyone older. They tried to act cool.

They told me how they bought their outfits—T.J. Maxx, which I’m not dissing because I’m a Maxxinista—and how they went to this “cool pizza place” near MIT. Okay, there are no “cool pizza places.” Pizza is just pizza, unless it’s a calzone and then it’s not pizza. They were telling me how they kept getting hit on by older dudes—I was snarky enough to use my “disgusted” face and have it look like a “oh no you didn’t girlfriend” face—who gave them their food.

This I find hard to believe because they’re bragging that older, married men gave them their leftover pizza? How? And more importantly why? And most importantly ew?

They asked me what I like to do in Boston, which is like asking someone how their year was—like where do I start? Why do you even care?—and I just said that I like to chill and blah blah blah. They started talking about drinking—I did say at one point, “You guys are literally seventeen”—and when I commented on them talking about margaritas, they had this to say.

ME: the place across the street has good margs.
MAXXINISTA #1: Omg I love margaritas.
MAXXINISTA #2: I’m more of a prosecco person.
ME: (no words, just stares at MAXX. #2)
ME: (internal monologue) You having prosecco once last New Year’s Eve with your parents is not you being “a prosecco person”.

Then Maxxinista #1 told me that her grandmother is 91 but is dating a 65-year-old and recently went to an orgy. This was in response to Maxxinista #2 telling me, WITHOUT PROMPT, that she has two lesbian grandmothers who run a farm—duh. This was in response to me saying, “Oh look, a pride flag.”

I LOVE TEENAGERS.

During the encore, my little friends came down again and tried to get me to dance. I didn’t, because omg I did not want anyone seeing me dance with them!!!1! Omg so embarrassing!! Like what if Tiffany saw me! She would tease me so bad in Chem II!!!!! NO WAY!!!!1!

The girls then asked me my name—wearing a nametag and we’ve been talking for twenty minutes—before going ‘OMG UR NAME TAG.’ Then they told me that I didn’t look like a Danny. They said I looked like a Seth.

“Seth?!” I screeched.

“Yes!!! Such a good name!” they screeched back. Maxxinista #2 then told me that the college she’s applying to allows cats, and she wants a cat and wants to name him Seth. So, in their defense, “Seth” might’ve been the only name they know. Or I look like a giant pussy.

The rest of the concert was pretty uneventful. I spent forty minutes staring at the high school gay in my section who had somehow planned a full 90-minute interpretive dance to the concert, while his lady friend just stood there watching him—that’s a lie; about fifty minutes in, she sat down and stared up at him from the floor.

Teenagers are, like, the worst about technology. I know that people my age are boning their phones, but teenagers are worse thrice times over. I saw at least five different instances of people SnapChatting their way into the concert floor, when nothing was happening and the overhead lights were glaring. They would put their flashlights on for every other song, and didn’t understand the “sexy casual drifting sway of the light” motion. Instead, they “windshield wiper”-ed for half the concert. I mean, I was an asshole at 16, but I was an asshole with a Samsung Alias 2.

Additionally, all teenagers look as old at 17 as I do right now. And they’re all gorgeous. It’s so unfair. I only recently—like “two Wednesdays ago” recently—got hot, but I kept seeing all these beautifully dressed beautiful gays and had to keep thinking, “they’re in high school; you’re not Woody Allen; they’re in high school.” They might’ve been in college, but seriously who can take a risk like that?

There were beautiful moments though. At one point, during “Heaven” (name?), everyone pulled out sheets of paper they had been given before. Each section was a different color, and they put their flashlights on behind the paper, turning the entire arena into one huge rainbow. One person near me had an iPhone 4, so she fucked up, but other than that, it was stunning.

It was nice to see young people, younger than me, who were as passionate about politics and queer rights. They didn’t/couldn’t even vote in the election (some of them are too young for driving permits) but they were still deeply invested in our country. And I think, weirdly enough, that’s what I needed to see. That a bunch of vapid, hormonal, angsty teens in Adidas Superstars and tube tops (that was just the boys, btw) could be as passionate and wordly and educated and righteously angry and wonderfully committed to our world.

Was anyone expecting an article that used the word “Maxxinista” so much to end up on an uplifting note? I certainly wasn’t.

P.S./Side bar: dont’ you love how everyone who’s like “Ugh i love the ’90s!!!!” was born in 2002. Chill the fuck out, dude.

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Halloween, Humor, Life

LIKE YOU HALLOMEAN IT: COSTUMES, NOSTALGIA & I HATE A LEAF

Written while getting increasingly erratic and jealous of a photo I posted on Instagram of a leaf. It’s somehow gotten more likes than my other most recent photo—me, looking thin—and I actually couldn’t make up how crazy it’s making me. IT’S A FUCKING LEAF, PPL. IS SHE HOTTER THAN ME? IS THAT WHAT IT IS?! WHAT DOES THIS LEAF HAVE THAT I DON’T? IT’LL BE DEAD AND CRISPY IN TWO DAYS. If I were smarter, I would stop giving this leaf promo, but my rage-envy is giving me tunnel vision.

Halloween always stresses me out. As a kid, it was the blinding anxiety of the whole night being without rules. As a gaydult, it’s shifted to the crippling anxiety of trying to find the perfect Halloween costume. Halloween is Gay Christmas (Christmas is Gay Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving is just Gay, and the Super Bowl is Gay Arbor Day—no one cares about it and only Beyoncé makes it better). Also, Labor Day is the same in both Gay and Straight.

I can’t remember if I did anything for Halloween in high school. Granted, as evidenced by the photos I’ve been looking at lately, in high school I was cosplaying as a cadaver 24/7 (I was thin, you guys, and not “chic” thin or even “are you okay” thin (my favorite kind of thin) but like “gangly as fuck” thin, which is never a good look). I’m pretty lean now, and it’s only now that I realize there’s a solid difference between “thin” and “lean.”

I thought I was such hot shit in high school—omg the fucking ego I had—and now looking bad, I was literally all bad skin and mile-long limbs and HORRIFIC taste in clothing (I wore decorative scarves all the time). I’m on such a tangent but thinking about how no one gave me an intervention makes me so mad.

Anywayanyway, what should I be for Halloween for my senior year—the capstone four years in the making?

Freshman year of college

I was a “dead pirate” but everyone just thought I was “beat up Where’s Waldo.” Nothing against Where’s Waldo but definitely not what I was going for.

Sophomore year of college

I decided to go as a pun. BIG MISTAKE BECAUSE NO ONE GETS PUNS ON HALLOWEEN. I was “Dick In A Box.” The idea for the costume centered around the fact that I had this outfit that I looked so cute in, and I also had a cardboard box. I hung the box around me from spooky skull suspenders and then put a name-tag that said “Hi! I’m Richard” on the box. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that NO ONE GOT IT. Was I too nuanced? Should I have said “Hi I’m Dick”? What did I do wrong?!

Junior year of college #LondonEdition

The elusive, sexy Halloweekend. On Friday night, I went on a bar crawl through Shoreditch and dressed as Sexy Dead Lumberjack (L.L.Bean boots, short-shorts, red flannel unbuttoned to my navel, gray beanie, and a “slash” across my throat in red lipstick). Saturday I was supposed to be Bob Belcher from Bob’s Burgers, but after my RA thought I was simply in my pajamas, I changed. I did my face in skull makeup (free hand) and drew a tombstone on a white t-shirt, scrawling above it “My Dreams.” I was “My Dreams Are Dead.” Pretty funny and people moderately got it. The highlight of this night was eating duck confit and waffles forty floors above misty London at four a.m.

But so far, I haven’t thought of anything that’s really grabbing me. Here are some potential (actual potential, not like “joke for the blog”) options that I’ve been mulling over:

Fuckboi/No Homo

There’s a subtle difference between a “fuckboy” and a “fuckboi” because a “fuckboi” is secretly gay. Me and my “friend” Nina* have this long-running joke where we morph into what I like to think of as the gay fratty version of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon and just riff off each other. Just two dudes who think it’s not gay to fall into the loving embrace of another man. The kind of guys who say “A hole is a hole” and “I’m not gay, but I would totally bottom for Tom Brady.” Just str8boi things.

*I fucking hate that nine-fingered bitch.

Sexy Dentist

I think there has been no greater gift to humanity than the “Let’s Turn Regular Things Sexy” trend. I mean, fire is a pretty close second, but seriously this tops that. As a “joke” (where I float an actual idea but clothe it in humor to avoid being embarrassed) the possibility of being a “Sexy Baby” but the reaction from my focus groups was (probably rightfully) almost unanimous disgust. So that goes in the “Maybe” pile.

But I think being a Sexy Dentist could be hilarious because I love doing the whole “Unsexy Things Becoming Sexy but Doing Unsexy Things.” Like I do this dance at the club called “Sad Stripper” where it’s just me pussy-popping while crying. So as Sexy Dentist, I could wear a too-tight scrubs shirt, short shorts, maybe a mouth thingy, and then just stick my fingers in people’s unsuspecting mouths and ask them questions about school.

Like, a long time goes by.

Okay, so apparently I didn’t have a third potential option, and instead of brainstorming funny ideas just for the sake of having a trio (threesomes are so hard to coordinate, I’ve learned) I went back through my blog and read funny posts. You guys, I was actually funny. What’s happened? Anyway, I can’t even think of a third choice, so let’s just say that those are my two major options. It’s hard thinking of things to make funny. I mean, I’m not funny, so I wouldn’t actually know. I imagine it’s hard though.

Btw, here’s my playlist for Fall 2k16!!!! Last year I put up my Christmas playlist, but I made one for the season of the Dying of the Leaves!! Check it out if you want.

#spookyspooky

#ISTHATLEAFHOTTERTHANME

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Humor, Life

THE ADVENTURE OF A CUP OF COFFEE, AND ALL THAT ENTAILS

It’s a harsh reality when you have to adjust your Starbucks order to accommodate your sparse resources. Instead of getting a latte—apparently the Westchester County of drinks—I had to dial it down to just a coffee—the drink of the common people. But maybe it isn’t so bad; I could use a reality check. Lord knows I’m delusional enough as is.

I feel a sense of earthy pride when I tell the barista my order. He doesn’t even have to go to the fancy milk steamer. My order comes straight from the tap (tap?) into a simple, regular cup. I’m an Everyman; a Jim Halpert. I take my coffee simple and my laughs loud. I picture this as my new life: grande hot coffee (soon I’ll skip to just say “medium” because where I’ll be from, we don’t use Italian), red flannel with raggedly-worn cuffs, and a job at the local paper. I’ll have a boxer—no, no, a border collie; something large and fluffy that’ll look good in front of my fireplace. I’ll make friends with the locals, say things like, “Life runs a little slower here,” and put buckets under my leaks because I don’t bother fixing the roof because hey, what does it matter in the end?

As the barista swings around and puts my new life—conveniently $2.45—onto the counter, the girl in front of me, who ordered a pumpkin scone (city folk) and a latte (patrician) grabs the scone from the other barista’s hand and—thinking that my free love java is hers—grabs it and makes like the Olsen twins in New York Minute (fast). I witness the life I could have crumble like a vision board that got caught in the rain.

“Um, that’s mine,” I say a little sharply, a holdover from my present/past life, where I’m a quick-talking city Grinch. Once I get that coffee, I’ll be a molasses-drawling, straight-leg-jean-wearing regular, but that bitch is trying to make a move on my new life, and I won’t stand for that.

“Oh, sorry,” she says with the air of someone who doesn’t care about my hazy Seattle dreams.

Once I got it, I realized I made the mistake of not asking for some room for milk. What can I say? I’m a latte guy. I begin to pour half-and-half—I randomly choose amongst the various dairy products, usually whichever one seems the coolest—before realizes that the amount of room left in the cup will only allow for a “Barely tolerable gray-ish” amount of milk, when I need a “Swaddled in a rich tan hue” amount of milk. With the precision of an Olympic gymnast, I slowly lift the cup to my lips. Mind you, I’m in a public Starbucks, very obviously taking up time at the accoutrements counter.

As the cup nears my lips, my eyes lock onto a friend/general human acquaintance who is 10% cooler than I am and the jolt of fear trilling down my spine causes the cup to lurch against my mouth, reminding me that the milk has done nothing for the scalding lava that lurks under the docile facsimile of coffee. I burn my tongue, flinch wildly, and cause the liquid to splash over the edge, boiling down my fingers and onto the counter.

Defeated, maimed and embarrassed, I try to—quickly as possible—pour small amounts of my coffee into the trash can until I can pour enough half-and-half into it to salvage it. After that, and a heart-achingly large dose of sugar, I replace the cardboard sleeve to disguise my dance with devil.

Trying to appear casual—I’m wearing Adidas for fuck’s sake—I casually pretend to ignore my friend/genial homo sapiens, while obviously knowing that he has moved up precisely 3.2 spots in line. He reaches out and taps me and I do the whole, “Oh didn’t see you there!” routine. I saw him; you saw him. We’re all liars here.

He tells me about his work, his class, his upcoming nap. I’m assuming, actually, because I wasn’t listening and am instead wondering, Did I spill any coffee on my shoe? I can’t look now, that would be too obvious. Ugh, it’s leather. White leather. Brown coffee on white leather. White leather sounds a little porny, like the BDSM sister of Whitesnake. White Snake? I bet it did. I can’t believe it, while going, “Uh-huhh, mhmmm” like Frankenstein’s monster.

He asks me about my day, I give him the truncated version of the truncated version and decide to disclose my little dip into Hades’ hellfire. He laughs, the sound slipping through the neat gap in his teeth. I’m making it sound cute, like “Oh I spilt some coffee. How relatable,” rather than the practically Medea-inflicted pain it actually was (great myth, Medea, if you’re looking for a fun quippy read).

Later, in the class for which I originally procured the coffee (three hours long + a me whose main job this last week has been convincing myself that I have ADD), I notice that the spillage left a mocha-hued tie-dye print all over the cover. So it didn’t matter that I changed the sleeve. The proof was in the pudding.

By the way, I had a fucking burnt tongue for two hours afterward.

Standard